Among the many keynote speakers, presentations, and posters at the American Psychological Association 2020 Virtual Convention (which is available online until August 1, 2021), the program includes a symposium on “Questioning Qualitative Methods – Rethinking Accepted Practices.” This session includes three presentations: “Do We Have Consensus About Consensus? Reconceptualizing Consensus as Epistemic Privilege” (by Heidi Levitt), “Is Member-Checking the Gold Standard of Quality Within Qualitative Research?” (by Sue Motulsky), and “Is Replication Important for Qualitative Researchers?” (by Rivka Tuval-Mashiach).
Ruthellen Josselson serves as discussant for this session. In her remarks, Dr. Josselson uses the symposium theme of “rethinking accepted practices” to discuss the second-tier status or “marginalization” of qualitative research, particularly in the field of psychology, and suggests a way to think differently about working in qualitative research. Josselson begins by acknowledging the core realities of qualitative research. Drawing on the panelists’ presentations – and not unlike an earlier article in Research Design Review on the “10 Distinctive Qualities of Qualitative Research” – she highlights unique aspects of qualitative research such as the multiple, contextual nature of “truth,” the absence of isolated variables to measure, and the impossibility of exact replication. These realities, however, do not or should not condemn qualitative research to the periphery of the research methods arena.
To drive qualitative research away from the periphery and its marginalized status, Josselson offers an approach centered on “collectivism” or the idea of a concerted effort among qualitative researchers to investigate phenomena together with the objective of making meaningful contributions toward addressing the research issue. In this spirit, qualitative researchers set out Read Full Text
The October 2019 issue of American Psychologist included two articles on the famed Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) conducted by Philip Zimbardo in 1971. The first, “Rethinking the Nature of Cruelty: The Role of Identity Leadership in the Stanford Prison Experiment” (Haslam, Reicher, & Van Bavel, 2019), discusses the outcomes of the SPE within the context of social identity and, specifically, identity leadership theories espousing, among other things, the idea that “when group identity becomes salient, individuals seek to ascertain and to conform to those understandings which define what it means to be a member of the relevant group” (p. 812) and “leadership is not just about how leaders act but also about their capacity to shape the actions of followers” (p. 813). It is within this context that the authors conclude from their examination of the SPE archival material that the “totality of evidence indicates that, far from slipping naturally into their assigned roles, some of Zimbardo’s guards actively resisted [and] were consequently subjected to intense interventions from the experimenters” (p. 820), resulting in behavior “more consistent with an identity leadership account than…the standard role account” (p. 819).
In the second article, “Debunking the Stanford Prison Experiment” (Le Texier, 2019), the author discusses his content analysis study of the documents and audio/video recordings retrieved from the SPE archives located at Stanford University and the Archives of the History of American Psychology at the University of Akron, including a triangulation phase by way of in-depth interviews with SPE participants and a comparative analysis utilizing various publications and texts referring to the SPE. The purpose of this research was to learn whether the SPE archives, participants, and comparative analysis would reveal “any important information about the SPE that had not been included in and, more importantly, was in conflict with that reported in Zimbardo’s published accounts of the study” (p. 825). Le Texier derives a number of key findings from his study that shed doubt on the integrity of the SPE, including the fact that the prison guards were aware of the results Read Full Text
Reporting in qualitative research, and particularly the element of transparency, has been the topic of various articles in Research Design Review (see “Reporting Qualitative Research: A Model of Transparency,” “Reporting Ethnography: Storytelling & the Roles Participants Play,” and others). While all types of research require complete and accurate reporting, the final report appears to be discussed less frequently compared to other aspects of the research process. This is certainly true in qualitative research. Just a look around RDR will prove the point that a greater emphasis has been paid to other research design areas – such as data collection and analysis – than to the actual reporting of the findings.
This needs to change. One could argue that the final written report is the most important component of the research process, the component that not only serves to document the study from beginning to end but also transforms qualitative research into a tangible, living “being” for the research users to grab hold of and utilize in any number of ways. Without the report, our research might as well not exist. This makes one wonder why relatively scant attention is paid to best practices in reporting and, indeed, why the final report in some research sectors (e.g., marketing research) is often reduced to a less-than-comprehensive, fully-bulleted PowerPoint slide deck.
For anyone interested in a serious discussion of the many facets of the qualitative report, an excellent resource is Focus Group Discussions by Monique Hennink (2014, Oxford University Press as part of their Understanding Qualitative Research series edited by Patricia Leavy). Although the book is centered on the focus group method, the chapters devoted to reporting offer relevant and useful guidance regardless of the qualitative approach. For example, Hennink’s chapter on “Writing Focus Group Methods,” discusses the challenges researchers face when attempting to give “methodological depth” to their reporting while also writing in a clear and concise manner. Using qualitative terminology such as purposiveRead Full Text